A Walk A Day Keeps Problems Away – There is a lot of truth in this.
Does your dog have behavioral problems? Can You fix them? The truth is no. Dogs are living animals who have emotional responses to stress – like humans. You cannot promise that ‘any dog’ will never react. What you can do is ‘stack the deck’ in your favor and teach a dog coping skills so that it can manage stress. Can you manage a reactive dog? Yes. Can you teach it appropriate behavior? Yes. Can you learn to safely walk your dog again? The answer is yes, in many cases. But you need to understand that your dog may never be a therapy dog. Sometimes the solution is a solid management program.
I use the PPP method to solve dog problems.
I’ve seen one, or all, of these missing in the some of the most sever behavior problems. In some cases the owners were ready to put their dog down. Dogs are highly driven, highly social animals. When their basic needs are not met they become very stressed and frustrated.
Maslow’s Structure for a Healthy Well-Behaved Dog
Dogs were not meant to live alone for several hours a day. They did not evolve to live 9-10 hours a day in a crate. They did not develop to endure encountering strange packs, but not showing any sign of defense or dominance. But that is the reality of today’s urban life. We take dogs from their normal environment and stick them in ours – and we do it very successfully.
Dog’s only need one thing to survive in today’s over stimulated, isolation.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that every living thing needs breathing, good food, clean water, shelter, sleep. These are the foundation of health. We will go to great lengths to provide these for ourselves. And it is our responsibility to provide the ‘best’ for our dogs. This is especially true with dogs who live in high stress situations.
The next tier includes health, ownership, family, social, a purpose. These are the things that make us feel safe. The lack of these basic biological and psychological needs is one of the major attributing factors to the dramatic increase in reactive and aggressive problems today.
Making a dog feel safe takes time and effort. A single dog knows it is vulnerable. Instinct tells it that it is in danger. Dogs need to be around us doing things that ‘connect’ or ‘engage.’ It isn’t just enough to walk the dog, or play ball. You need to make a connection with the dog.
In my opinion this is the most lacking and often detrimental aspects of dog care in today’s fast paced world. Dogs are highly intelligent. They like problem solving. One of the first puzzles my dogs learn is I throw a small sheet over them and let them get out. Of course I stage this so that success happens quickly the first few times, and I never let the dog get tangled and stuck.
There are lots of brain games for dogs online.
Play takes care of both the first and second level of Maslow’s hierarchy. It exercises, relieves stress, eliminates frustration, builds a social bond with you and most important, increases focus which increases obedience.
Dogs will do anything for a reward. It may be a pat, treat, ball, or anything else your dog loves. Remember that play is about relationship with the focus on the dog. Not obedience or control. At first the puppy may even get so excited it misses the treat or ball and grabs you. Unless the bite is aggressive then let it go. (I wear gloves when puppy playing).
Also, don’t trick the dog. If the dog is expecting a reward it will not understand that you withhold the reward because it didn’t do something right. I just knows that you are not playing by the rules. You can’t be trusted. The game is no longer fun.
A dog needs to communicate. It will tell you it is stressed. It will tell you when the game is no fun. It will tell you when it is having the best day of its life. You just need to learn to watch for the cues.
The dog also wants to learn and the best way to learn is through physical touch. Watch the dogs that win the competitions. Their handlers are very ‘hands on’ when telling the dog he just did a great performance. Dogs need to be pet, even the toughest bull breed needs lots of affection.
Your dog gets bored. And bored dogs act in inappropriate manners.